4. Efforts to Promote Understanding and Trust toward Japan
The impact of public opinion on foreign policy has been increasing in recent years with the rapid development of information and communications technology and the growth of democracy. It is thus essential to promote interest in and affinity for Japan and build a positive image of Japan to implement foreign policy effectively by providing information, not only to governments but also directly to citizens, and by strengthening people-to-people connections.
From this point of view, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has been carrying out various policies including providing information on foreign policy to intellectuals who have influence on public opinions, introducing diverse aspects of Japanese traditional and pop culture, and promoting Japanese language education overseas through the Japan Foundation. Furthermore, to realize the New Growth Strategy approved by the Cabinet in June 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been providing information actively on the strengths of Japan and on the attractions of its regions, in partnership with related ministries and agencies of the Japanese government, and relevant institutions making good use of Japan’s overseas diplomatic missions (embassies and consulate-generals), with a view to promoting strategy for the “Cool Japan” and “a tourism-oriented nation.”
Since in the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided information and issued press releases to overseas media, and briefed foreign governments, experts, and businesses to communicate accurate information abroad and prevent misunderstandings of the post-quake situation in Japan. The Ministry invited related parties to visit Japan as well in order to increase their understanding of the actual situation of Japan by seeing it with their own eyes. The Ministry also strengthened release of information using the websites, social media, and other means of information and communications technology and expressed Japan’s gratitude for the support from overseas. In addition, in order to restore and strengthen trust in the Japan brand, the Ministry also promoted public relations for Japanese products, exhibited them at travel fairs and other events, and held photo exhibitions on the post-earthquake reconstruction, in cooperation with related government ministries and agencies, local governments, and businesses.
The Ministry invites international opinion leaders, journalists, other leaders and promising individuals who are likely to attain future leadership positions in order to deepen their understanding of Japan. The Ministry also supports the participation of Japanese intellectuals in international conferences to strengthen the representation by Japanese experts. Furthermore, the Ministry organizes Exchange Year programs that commemorate diplomatic anniversaries with other countries and in 2011 exchange activities were extendedly held in Germany, Kuwait, and the three Baltic states. Japan is providing international contributions in the area of culture, including the preservation and restoration of cultural properties and training of specialists, through provision of cultural grant assistance for developing countries, and cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international organizations.
Japan booth at a sightseeing exhibition (February 2012, Philippines)